Duplicative programs wasting government funds, report says

eye-opener-logoThe federal government could save tens of billions of dollars each year by trimming duplicative programs including catfish inspections by three separate agencies and 159 contracting organizations that provide foreign-language support for the Defense Department, according to a report from Congress’s auditing agency.

The Government Accountability Office found 162 examples of government duplication or other inefficiencies while analyzing programs in virtually all major federal departments and agencies over three years, according to a report the agency released Tuesday.

Eliminating the Department of Agriculture’s catfish inspections, which are mandated by the 2008 farm bill, would avoid program duplication and save millions in taxpayer dollars “without affecting the safety of catfish intended for human consumption,” the report said.

Likewise, the report found that the government could save up to $200 million by reducing the number of contracting organizations providing foreign-language support to the Defense Department.

The GAO also said the government wastes millions of dollars each year by not coordinating its efforts to gather geographical data for functions such as maintaining roads and fighting forest fires.

Among the scores of other duplicative or inefficient programs the GAO listed, a few deal with veterans and students, many of whom will be or already have been looking for work in a stubbornly tough job market.

The GAO report said that “federal assistance for higher education is fragmented,” pointing to 21 programs that provide hundreds of billions in assistance — including eight tax subsidies — to help students afford higher education.

The GAO also found that the government operates six programs at two agencies to help employ and train veterans. “Despite these efforts, the unemployment rate for veterans who have recently separated from the military is higher than that for other veterans and nonveterans,” the report said.

Based on its findings, the GAO has issued 300 recommendations. Congress and the Obama administration have not addressed about 30 percent of those recommendations, the report said.

The 2014 White House budget, which is due to come out on Wednesday, will include proposals to eliminate the USDA catfish inspection program and consolidate other programs relating to education and employment services, the Office of Management and Budget said on Tuesday.

The GAO launched a new website that tracks whether and how the government has taken action on the agency’s recommendations.

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